Showing posts with label Abused Children. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Abused Children. Show all posts

February 28, 2019

Thousand of Sexual Abuse Allegations Against Unaccompanied Minors in US Custody


                                Related image




Thousands of allegations of sexual abuse against unaccompanied minors (UAC) in the custody of the U.S. government have been reported over the past 4 years, according to Department of Health and Human Services documents given to Axios by Rep. Ted Deutch's office.


Data: Dept. of Health and Human Services; Note: The type of perpetrator is only known for cases ORR reported to DOJ; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios
Allegations against staff members reported to the DOJ included everything from rumors of relationships with UACs to showing pornographic videos to minors to forcibly touching minors’ genitals.

By the numbers: From October 2014 to July 2018, the HHS' Office of Refugee Resettlement received 4,556 complaints, and the Department of Justice received 1,303 complaints. This includes 178 allegations of sexual abuse by adult staff.

What they're saying: Deutch said these documents were included in HHS' response to a House Judiciary Committee request for information made in January.

"This behavior — it's despicable, it's disgusting, and this is just the start of questions that HHS is going to have to answer about how they handle these and what's happening in these facilities," Deutch told Axios.
HHS' response, per spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley:

“The safety of minors is our top concern when administering our unaccompanied alien children program. Each of our grantees running standard shelters is licensed by the respective state for child care services. In addition to other rigorous standards put in place by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) at HHS' Administration for Children and Families, background checks of all facility employees are mandatory."
“These are vulnerable children in difficult circumstances, and ORR fully understands its responsibility to ensure that each child is treated with the utmost care. When any allegations of abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect are made, they are taken seriously and ORR acts swiftly to investigate and respond."
Details: One of the documents given to Axios, embedded below, gives some detail about the allegations, although it only includes descriptions of the incidences for fiscal years 2015 and 2016. We also don't know what happened to the accused staffers in fiscal years 2017 and 2018.

Based on the information provided in the documents, it's unclear whether there's overlap between allegations reported to ORR and those made to DOJ. Axios assumed that some ORR allegations are referred to DOJ, so the numbers included in our chart are conservative.

All allegations referred to DOJ are also referred to HHS, according to the documents.
In many cases, the staff members were removed from duty and ultimately fired.

February 25, 2019

Homosexuality Has Nothing To Do With Child Sexual Abuse in The Church



                                         
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A Christian journalist attempted to link the two when asking questions.

The chief of the summit which aims to stop child sexual abuse within the Vatican, has told journalists that homosexuality has “nothing to do with” it.

During the summit, in which 200 people participated and heard accounts from survivors, journalists posing questions attempted to link homosexuality to the abuse.

However, Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, who was appointed as chief of the summit, told them that “to generalize about categories of person is never legitimate.”

He continued, saying all sexualities were “human conditions that we recognize, and that exist, but they aren’t something that really predisposes to sin.”

But one journalist, from the Christian news website LifeSiteNews wouldn’t drop the line, saying: “I don’t think in anything that’s happened here anyone has suggested that people with homosexual tendencies equal people who are abusing [minors], and that should be clear.

“Nonetheless, as we saw in the United States, much of the abuse came out of decades of a subculture of homosexuality and sins of sodomy… in the seminaries.

“So just to clarify: while we shouldn’t generalize about categories of persons, do you think that it’s important to address this sort of sin among the clergy which fosters coverup?”

Although the Archbishop didn’t defend homosexuality, he responded by saying: “The simple [answer] is “yes” but this has nothing to do with sexual abuse of minors.

“I think you were very clear in your premise, and I’m grateful for that. You cannot not address misconduct of that nature, which is sinful, but this is not about the sexual abuse of minors.

Related: Majority of Catholics want the Church to adopt a more positive stance toward the LGBTQ community

January 29, 2019

Six children in south-western Tanzania have been killed and had their ears and teeth removed...For Witchcraft




Six children in south-western Tanzania have been killed and had their ears and teeth removed, the authorities say.
BBC
Some of the bodies of the children, aged between two and nine years old, were also missing limbs.
"This is all about superstitious beliefs and many believe they will get help from witchcraft," Njombe District Commissioner Ruth Msafiri said.
Other local children are also missing and Ms Msafiri said people should work together to deal with the issue.
Correspondents say that some witchdoctors in the region tell people that human body parts have special properties that can bring them wealth and luck. 
"We urge all parents and guardians to be on alert and teach their children on how determine the motives of who is around them," the district commissioner told the BBC.
The children, three of whom were from the same family, were taken from their homes at night when their parents were selling food at a market. 





Media caption'My neighbour hacked off my hands' (From Tanzania in 2017)

January 24, 2019

Thousands of Migrant Children Were Released Before Their Families Were Identified




Image result for migrant children lost
A new report reveals many more children were released before official counts. Mario Tama/Getty Images. Are you a decent person, an American? How can you not do something?
             




Vox.com

A new report says “thousands” of migrant children were released before officials started identifying separated families.
A new report from the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services finds that an unknown number of children — possibly “thousands” — were separated from parents at the US-Mexico border before June 2018 but hadn’t been included in official government tallies of separated families.
The Trump administration’s practice of separating families who crossed into the US without papers (by prosecuting parents for illegal entry into the US and sending them into criminal custody, while children were reclassified as “unaccompanied” minors) became a nationwide scandal in the late spring of 2018, leading to a Trump administration executive order ending the policy and a federal court order requiring the administration to reunite the separated parents and children in its care.  
But separated children who had already been released from the government’s custody — usually by being placed with a sponsor — weren’t identified and reunited as part of that lawsuit. In the new report, HHS is admitting that there could be thousands of such children and that they’ll never have any way of knowing how many for sure.
The new report doesn’t — and can’t — identify where separated children released from custody were placed. But despite fears (among politicians and the public) of widespread “loss” or trafficking of immigrant children, the available evidence suggests most separated children (like children who arrive unaccompanied) were placed with close relatives in the US.
But the point of the report is the government’s admission that it will never be able to know for sure how many children were separated and exactly what happened to them. Even the estimate of “thousands” is offered without much explanation, as an estimate of officials at the Office of Refugee Resettlement and HHS’ office for preparedness and response.
Because of the federal government’s failure to keep records about which children in its care had been separated from their parents, the public will never know the full scope of the Trump administration’s use of family separation against border crossers in Trump’s first year and a half in office. 
The federal government has never offered an official tally of how many families have been separated by immigration authorities. It couldn’t produce one if it tried.
When families are separated at the border, the children are classified as “unaccompanied alien children” (the label put on children who come to the US without a parent or guardian) and sent into the custody of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for placing them with a sponsor.
Until summer 2018, there was no official way to record the difference between a child who’d come without a parent and a child who’d been separated from one in the files that were sent from DHS to HHS.
HHS’s job isn’t to hold children until a parent can be identified, but to place them with a suitable sponsor — a parent, another relative, family friend, or (if needed) unrelated adult — as soon as safely possible. And if a child turns 18, or decides to return to their home country, they’re no longer HHS’s responsibility.
Family separation was an occasional practice going back as far as late 2016, but it ramped up hugely as the Trump administration instituted a “zero tolerance” policy of prosecuting as many adults as possible for illegal entry into the US, and separating parents from their children to be sent into criminal custody.
A Customs and Border Protection official told Reuters in June 2018 that from October 2016 to February 2018, 1,800 families were separated by DHS. Of those families, 281 were separated as part of a “pilot program” along the El Paso sector of the border from June to November 2017.
According to the new inspector general report, the staff at HHS started noticing in summer 2017 that more of the children being sent to them by DHS seemed to have been separated from parents. (Informal HHS tracking, according to this report, showed that in late 2016, only 0.3 percent of children sent from DHS appeared to have been separated from their parents; by August 2017, 3.6 percent were identified as possibly separated from family.)
In the spring of 2018, that pilot was expanded across the US-Mexico border, and separations rapidly spiked. From October 2017 to April 20, 2018, an HHS official told the New York Times, about 3.46 families were separated a day; over 12 days in May of 2018, DHS told Congress, that rate spiked to 42.8 separations a day.
On June 26, 2018, Judge Dana Sabraw ordered the federal government not only to stop separating families (something the Trump administration had promised to do as a matter, of course, the week before) but to reunify them. To do that, it had to identify the number of separated children who were in the government’s care at that time. That number — about 2,737 as of December — is what’s typically taken as the number of separated families.
But Sabraw’s order only applied to children who were in HHS custody on June 26. It didn’t apply to children who had already been released.
The inspector general’s report is estimating that that is what happened to “thousands” of children: They were separated from their parents when they entered the US, but by the time HHS started identifying separated children, they were no longer under HHS’s care.
Generally, children are released to close relatives, but we don’t know how many of the separated children were released to nonrelatives
HHS has strict rules about who it’s supposed to allow to sponsor an immigrant child. The first priority is a parent or legal guardian; the second priority is a close relative; the third priority is a distant relative or family friend, and only failing that, an unrelated adult.
In general, this means that the overwhelming majority of children whom HHS places with sponsors are sent to parents or close relatives. (A 2016 government report found that about 60 percent of immigrant children who came unaccompanied from Guatemala, Honduras, or El Salvador were placed with a parent living in the US.) There have been some high-profile cases of insufficient vetting of would-be sponsors, but the Trump administration has reacted to that by substantially tightening vetting, to the point of keeping kids in custody a lot longer than they were under the Obama administration.
Because HHS doesn’t actually know how many of the children it released from custody before June 26, 2018, were separated from parents at the border, it’s impossible to go back through those records and find out where the separated children went.
But by that same token, there’s no indication that HHS had different standards for the placement of separated children. So it’s reasonable to believe that most children were placed with relatives or family friends in the US (possibly even with parents who had been released from detention, or a parent already living here).
Overall, from the fiscal year 2017 to the first eight months of the fiscal year 2018, the share of kids placed with parents dropped from 49 percent to 41 percent, but the share placed with other close relatives rose from 41 percent to 47 percent. In other words, in both years, parents and close relatives made up about 90 percent of sponsors.
But it is possible that a disproportionate number of separated children were placed with unrelated sponsors as foster children — or released because they chose to be returned to their home country (perhaps to reunite with their parents). We don’t know. We’ll never know.

December 26, 2018

A Second Child Dies at The Hands of Ice- Politics Dangerous for Brown skin Children🙈


                                   Image result for immigration is a child killer

 A Concentration camp for children. 1942 No this is 1918
POLITICS can be a killer!
US says 2nd Guatemalan child dies in im­mi­gration custody
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS HOUSTON
 

HOUSTON (AP) — An 8-year-old boy from Guatemala died in government custody in New Mexico early Tuesday, U.S. immigration authorities said, marking the second death of an immigrant child in detention this month.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a news release that the boy died shortly after midnight.

The death came during an ongoing dispute over border security and with a partial government shutdown underway over President Donald Trump's request for border wall funding. The White House referred questions to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, CBP's parent agency. CBP officers and the Border Patrol remain on the job despite the shutdown.

The agency said the boy showed "signs of potential illness" on Monday and was taken with his father to a hospital in Alamogordo, New Mexico, where he was diagnosed with a cold and a fever. The boy was prescribed amoxicillin and Ibuprofen and released Monday afternoon after being held 90 minutes for observation, the agency said.

The boy was returned to the hospital Monday evening with nausea and vomiting and died there just hours later, CBP said.

According to Guatemala's foreign ministry, the father and son entered the U.S. at El Paso, Texas, on Dec. 18, then were taken to the Border Patrol's Alamogordo station Sunday. Alamogordo is about 90 miles (145 kilometers) from El Paso.

CBP typically detains immigrants for no more than a few days when they cross the border before either releasing them or turning them over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for longer-term detention. Agency guidelines say immigrants generally shouldn't be detained for more than 72 hours in CBP holding facilities, which are usually smaller and have fewer services than ICE's detention centers.

Parents and children together are almost always released quickly due to limited space in ICE's family detention facilities.

A CBP spokesman on Tuesday did not respond to questions about the ministry's statement. CBP has not yet confirmed when or where the father and son entered the United States or how long they were detained, saying only in its statement that the boy had been "previously apprehended" by its agents.

The agency said the cause of the boy's death has not been determined and that it has notified the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general and the Guatemalan government.

The hospital — the Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center — declined to comment, citing privacy regulations.

CBP promised "an independent and thorough review of the circumstances."

The Guatemalan foreign ministry called for an investigation "in accordance with due process."

Ruben Garcia, director of El Paso's Annunciation House, said Tuesday that he had no reason to believe his shelter had served the family, but was waiting for further details about what happened.

A 7-year-old Guatemalan girl died earlier this month after being apprehended by border agents in New Mexico. The body of the girl, Jakelin Caal, was returned to her family's remote village Monday for burial Tuesday.

Large numbers of Guatemalan families have been arriving in recent weeks in New Mexico, often in remote and dangerous parts of the desert. Jakelin and her father were with 161 other people when they were apprehended in Antelope Wells, about 230 miles (370 kilometers) southwest of Alamogordo.

CBP announced new notification procedures in response to Jakelin's death, which was not revealed until several days later.

Democratic members of Congress and immigration advocates sharply criticized CBP's handling of the death and questioned whether border agents could have prevented it by spotting symptoms of distress or calling for an evacuation by air ambulance sooner. CBP has said that it took several hours to transport Jakelin and her father from a remote Border Patrol facility to a larger station and then a hospital in El Paso.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, a Republican whose district along the U.S.-Mexico border includes Alamogordo, did not respond to messages Tuesday.

Xochitl Torres Small, a Democrat who will represent the district starting in January, called for a thorough and transparent investigation into the children's deaths and more medical resources along the border.

"This is inexcusable," she said in a statement Tuesday. "Instead of immediately acting to keep children and all of us safe along our border, this administration forced a government shutdown over a wall."

___

Contributing to this report were Associated Press journalists Mary Hudetz in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Sonia Perez D. in Guatemala City; and Mark Stevenson in Mexico City.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press.

December 18, 2018

This Soldier Climbed to Become A General but His Daughter Told The Story of A Munster, Sex Deviant, with Her


Jennifer Elmore, photographed in her home in Chapel Hill, N.C. in May. (Jeremy M. Lange/For The Washington Post)

 For retired Maj. Gen. James J. Grazioplene, getting arrested and photographed in an orange jumpsuit in Northern Virginia this month was the latest humiliation following a lengthy military investigation in which the Army charged him with rape, only to have the case dismissed on a technicality. 
For his daughter and military prosecutors, it was something else: a second chance at seeing whether a court will convict Grazioplene of rape.
Jennifer M. Elmore, 47, said in an interview that she first reported to the Army in 2015 that her estranged father had sexually abused her when she was a child. The service investigated for two years before bringing a case against Grazioplene in April 2017.
“Sometimes, it’s just easier to shut your mouth,” said Elmore, a senior vice president with Abbot Downing, a division of Wells Fargo focused on wealthy clients. “But if I stay silent and the next person opts for that, and the next person opts for that, and the next person opts for that, where are we?”  
As a matter of policy, The Washington Post does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault, but Elmore said she wants to tell her story and discussed it at length with The Post over the past seven months. Five other people as well as letters from the 1980s and 1990s corroborated parts of Elmore’s account. Those people included Grazioplene’s sister, who said the general admitted years ago that he assaulted his daughter.
Grazioplene, 69, is among the few generals in modern history that the Army has attempted to court-martial. He retired in 2005 after a career that included stints as a commander within the 82nd Airborne Division and senior staff positions at the Pentagon. After retiring, he became a vice president at the contractor DynCorp International but is no longer with the company.
He maintains his innocence, but he and one of his lawyers, Thomas Pavlinic, declined to discuss the case. Multiple attempts to reach other family members, including his wife, son and other siblings, were unsuccessful.
“I will not comment,” Grazioplene said in a Sept. 6 phone call. “The charges are false and incorrect. Nope.”

A mug shot of James J. Grazioplene released by Prince William County Police. (Photo by Prince William County Police)
The Army last year convened a hearing at Fort Meade, Md., in which Elmore testified. The service determined that there was enough evidence to hold a trial, but the case was dismissed because of a decision in another case — United States v. Mangahas — by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. It found that a five-year statute of limitations applied in the Mangahas case, which centered on an allegation of rape from 1997. A military judge, in response, dismissed the case against Grazioplene, saying the clock had also run out on prosecuting the general.
On Dec. 3, however, a grand jury in Prince William County indicted Grazioplene on multiple counts of rape and incest, following a four-month investigation, and he was arrested Dec. 7 in Gainesville, Va. 
There is no statute of limitations in Virginia on rape charges.
With a new case pending, Elmore and her attorney, Ryan Guilds, declined to comment further beyond what they said in interviews before the new charges were filed. Officials in Prince William and with the Army also declined to comment on the case and on whether they are cooperating.
Elmore said that her memories of abuse start when she was 3 years old. Her first recollection of it is her father molesting her while she was sitting on a washing machine in her maternal grandmother’s home in LeRoy, N.Y., she said.
“It was just him and myself, and I can picture it. The laundry. The stairs. The stone,” she said. “I couldn’t understand what was happening, but I knew I was terrified.” 
Over the next 15 years, the family moved around as Grazioplene was stationed in New York, Kansas, North Carolina, Germany and Virginia. Elmore said the abuse escalated to include “night visits” to her bedroom.
The Army charged Grazioplene with rape in the period from 1983 to 1989. Prince William authorities are focused on the years 1988 and 1989, when the family lived off-base in Woodbridge, Va., and Elmore was a high school junior.
The Grazioplenes moved back to Fort Bragg, N.C., before her senior year, and the abuse continued there, she said. She moved away in the summer of 1989 to attend Campbell University, a private Christian school less than 30 miles away. Elmore said she was in college before she first told others about what had happened to her. 
Jennifer Elmore at home in Chapel Hill, N.C., on May 24, 2018. (Jeremy M. Lange/For The Washington Post) 
One early confidant was Christopher Herring, a high school friend who had a “very short but kind of intense” period of dating with Elmore in fall 1989, he said. Herring, now an assistant professor at the University of Arizona, said that she was sweet, but sometimes sullen. He learned from her at some point that she had been abused at home, he said. 
“I didn’t poke too much more into it because, quite honestly, I was probably afraid of what I might learn,” Herring said. 
Elmore also confided in Grazioplene’s younger sister, Elizabeth Powley, who confronted her brother, she said.
“He said it was the worst thing he could have ever done to anybody, and that it was not happening still,” Powley said. “To this day, I will die not knowing why my brother did this.” 
After college, Elmore took a financial job in Charlotte and grew increasingly estranged from her parents.  She married and had a son, but was divorced by age 30.
Two friends contacted by The Post — Nikki Cross of Durham, N.C., and Julie Adams of Mebane, N.C. — said Elmore described being abused by her father while they were co-workers.
Cross said she worked with Elmore in a Durham office of Wachovia for a few years beginning around 2001, and they often talked about their Christian faith. One day, Cross said, Elmore said she’d been sexually abused as a child and was considering going to a support group for victims at Crossroads Fellowship Church in Raleigh. She elaborated in later conversations. 
“I was so floored,” Cross said. “It’s really hard to even go back and think about this, because it’s just so deep and dark.”
Adams said she grew close to Elmore as they opened the Abbot Downing office in Raleigh in 2011.
“She indicated that she had been sexually abused by her father, and I think that’s as graphic as the details got at that juncture,” Adams said.
Elmore remarried in 2006 and said she began considering reporting her father to authorities in January 2015. The tipping point, she said, was a phone call in which her parents again expressed frustration that she would not forgive them, as Grazioplene said that “‘the only thing worse that I could have done to you is murder you,’ ” she said.
Elmore’s second husband, Michael Willauer, said they were in a car during the call, and he heard the conversation. 
Elmore said she called Fort Bragg, and within hours investigators asked her to come in for an interview.
The following day, she traveled to the base accompanied by Adams and years of evidence she said she had collected, including some letters that her mother had written to Powley, the aunt. 
“Jim has . . . made an attempt at sexually molesting Jennifer,” one 1986 letter from Ann Marie Grazioplene to Powley reads. “She was sleeping, thank God, and I caught him before he got started.” Powley confirmed receiving it.
In a 1990 letter written from college, Elmore wrote to Powley and apologized for how she had “so bluntly revealed everything to you.” Elmore added that she felt she had “no right to feel that I could make such crude accusations and have you condemn Dad, as we both agreed I subconsciously wanted.” Elmore’s attorney showed the letters to The Post.
Speaking last spring, Elmore said she is grateful to the Army for pursuing her case.
Her husband, Willauer, choked up while describing his wife’s fight to be heard.
“It has been a progression, and it’s been an attempt over and over again to honor the truth in countless ways,” he said. “And being left with no other choice but this one.”
Through tears, Elmore agreed.
“I want to be heard,” she said. “I want to matter enough that the truth matters.” 

December 3, 2018

A Priest Faces Sex Child Abuse In His Own Church When His Assistant is Arrested


     This story originally posted on The Washington Post today By Terrence McCoy                                                                        


 Brian Christensen is on his way to jail again. Clerical collar around his thin neck, rosary dangling from the rearview mirror, the priest sets out on the same trip he has taken almost every day that week.

First was Monday afternoon, when he followed the detectives down this road, then up to the third floor of the police department, where he waited outside the interrogation room. On Wednesday, he went to the preliminary hearing, where the felony charges were announced: two counts of sexual contact with a 13-year-old. On Thursday, and on Friday, he returned to arrange a visitation with the Rev. John Praveen, 38, whom he last saw being cuffed and led into a police car, and who is now being held on a $100,000 cash bond and facing 30 years in prison. 
Now, Monday again, Christensen pulls out of the parking lot at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, where as lead pastor he oversaw Praveen’s clerical duties. He makes the five-minute drive to the Pennington County jail, where he plans to speak with the incarcerated priest for the first time since his arrest. 
“Aren’t you tired of all this?” his mother asked him on the phone that morning, and he could only sigh and say, yes, “I am tired of this.” 
This: a string of child sex abuse scandals that — spanning decades, continents and thousands of victims — has fundamentally altered how the world views the Catholic Church and priests like him, in particular. With every crisis, Christensen had allowed himself to hope that now, perhaps, it would be over, only to see another year like this one, when every day seems to bring news of sex crimes and cover-ups in the church. A grand jury report in Pennsylvania accused more than 300 priests of abusing about 1,000 children, spurring federal authorities to investigate. Two U.S. cardinals have been disgraced. And approval ratings for Pope Francis, who once was the world’s most popular leader, have plummeted among Americans.

Priests go visit people in prison. They don’t visit priests in prison. 

The Rev. Brian Christensen

But far beneath those headlines are churches like Christensen’s, where the same themes that have come to define the scandal at large — betrayal, hypocrisy, abuse of power, defensiveness — are playing out in a microcosm.

Ever since police arrested Praveen, who has pleaded not guilty, Christensen’s thoughts have been dominated by the same conflicts, the same questions. He believes it’s his responsibility as a Catholic leader to find a way to forgive sins, but could he this time? Already, he’d faced his flock once at weekend Mass, where he’d struggled to explain the unexplainable, but how does he steward the faith of thousands in a church beset by crisis? And how does he protect his own?

Christensen, 53, parks his Ford SUV near the jail. He kills the engine. He thinks about the day he became a priest, about two decades ago, and how he imagined his life would be. This is not a day he envisioned. “Priests go visit people in prison,” he says aloud. “They don’t visit priestsin prison.”

He climbs out, a tall, graceful man with hair as trim as it was during his military days. He walks past the mirrored glass in the jail lobby, then to a chair in front of a monitor and a phone. The monitor screen says that his appointment is beginning and that the call is being recorded. The lights on either side of the monitor come on. He picks up the phone.

“Come on, Father John,” he says and waits for the priest to arrive.Two days before this jail visit, back at the cathedral, Christensen had stepped out of the confessional. Feeling harried, he’d looked at his watch. It was 4:18 p.m. on a Saturday. The confessions that afternoon had gone way over schedule, and now little more than an hour remained until the weekend’s first Mass, barely enough time to plan how he would address what had become the most wrenching and complicated episode of his life as a priest.

To Christensen, the stakes were clear. No other major religion in the United States had lost more adherents than Catholicism over the past two decades. The combination of rapid social change, rigid church doctrine and a steady accumulation of clergy sex abuse scandals had plunged the church into turmoil. Millions of Americans raised Catholic — 41 percent of them, according to the Pew Research Center — no longer identified themselves that way.

The losses were steepest in the Northeast and the Midwest, once the center of the Catholic life in America, and among whites. Those descriptions characterized almost all of the 1,400 families in Christensen’s congregation, some of whom he wasn’t sure would, despite everything, still come to Mass and hear his homily.

He’d stepped into his office, trying to expel the freneticism of that week — the wedding receptions, church retreats and trips back and forth to jail — and brought out two notepads, a pen and a book of exegesis. He headed to the place where he did all of his best thinking. Inside, the chapel smelled of incense. It was quiet except for the sound of thin Bible pages being turned in prayer.

He knelt, hunched his shoulders over a pew and lowered his head into his hands.

He’d always wanted to say, “Not on my watch,” and that was how it had been at his parish. Even if the kids complained or the courses seemed repetitive, he’d demanded biannual abuse training for children so they could recognize what it meant to be touched inappropriately. In every church bathroom hung laminated signs encouraging victims of clergy abuse to “speak out.” But now, a scandal he’d once associated with faraway Boston or Milwaukee had arrived here, too. And it hadn’t just allegedly happened on his watch but inside the cathedral itself, down in the basement, on a late September day when hundreds of people, including him, were at the church. And none of them had any idea.
TOP LEFT: Christensen, pictured greeting young churchgoers, demanded biannual abuse training for children at his church so they could recognize what it would mean to be touched inappropriately. TOP RIGHT: Parishioners greet one another by shaking hands in a sign of peace. ABOVE: A priest allegedly assaulted a 13-year-old girl in the basement of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help on a late September day when hundreds of people were at the church. (Photos by Ryan Hermens for The Washington Post)

He’d made the sign of the cross, picked up a notepad and started writing.The first time he heard about child sex abuse in the church was when he was at seminary in Winona, Minn. It was 1995, and he met a reporter who was asking seminarians what it was like to enter the church at a time when pedophilia allegations were roiling parishes in Ireland and Austria. The question startled him. What abuse? In his whole life — from ringing bells as a Long Island altar boy, to escaping to chapel during morning marches at the U.S. Air Force Academy, to his growing church involvement while flying B-1 bombers — he’d never seen anything remotely approaching abuse.

Christensen sat back in the chapel pew, wrote the words, “What do we do?” and underlined them twice.

His faith in the clergy, then so strong, began to waiver only after he put on the collar. He witnessed one elderly priest get too “chummy” with boys — crude conversations, too much time together at the rectory — and ultimately reported him to church leaders. He watched a South Dakota priest be removed because of abuse allegations. And then in 2005, he got his first solo pastoral assignment. It was a small church in Fort Pierre, S.D., where a priest had abused children in the 1980s and early 1990s. On Sundays, Christensen noticed an absence of 30-something men in the pews. And soon people were telling him that the priest had abused them, too, and that, no, they didn’t want it reported, they just wanted him to know that it was true, that it had happened.

He closed his notebooks, shut his eyes and thought about the conversations he’d been having since Praveen’s arrest.

“I was raised Catholic,” one recently returned parishioner, Leslie Bostick, told him over lunch about her mind-set when she abandoned the church following an earlier abuse scandal. “This [sex abuse] issue came up, and it bothered me, and I stopped. . . . I would never go to confession. I felt like, ‘Why should I confess my sins to someone who has committed a crime?’ ” 

Joe Carlin, 78, told him over coffee on another day: “I would not admit to people that I’m a Catholic right now if they’re not Catholic.”

“Do you feel uncomfortable wearing that?” another woman, who declined to give her name, citing the sensitivity of her work with sex abuse survivors, had asked of his clerical clothing while at a church retreat.

“I don’t, but, you know, um, no, I don’t,” he’d replied, fumbling, because it was a question he’d asked of himself before, and sometimes he didn’t know the answer. Some emotions were easier. He felt angry — angry that pedophile priests had been shuffled from parish to parish. He felt frustrated. Why all of the church secrecy? Why the sealed court cases, the priests quietly retired, the accusers silenced with confidentiality agreements? And sometimes, most painful of all, he felt betrayed. He had sacrificed his life to become a priest, a decision that hadn’t been easy. It was only in August 1993 that, after years of thinking about it, he saw a processional for Pope John Paul II while flying over Denver. In that moment, he heard God’s voice — the clearest it had ever been — telling him he belonged down there, with them. He soon gave up his military career, and the possibility of marriage and a family, and now to have this act of service become so twisted in people’s minds? To have someone ask if he was uncomfortable wearing his clerical clothing, when he should feel only pride? It hurt to think about it.

He’d stood and, smoothing out the folds of that clothing, stepped out of the chapel, having decided what he would say during his homily. He looked out into the main church hall.

Ten minutes until the service. Hundreds of people already in the pews. All eyes on him.Days later now, at the jail again, John Praveen’s face appears on the computer monitor against a backdrop of white walls, closed doors and a stairway leading out of the camera frame. It is a face that looks swollen, unshaven, on the verge of crying. Christensen stares at it, blinking in disbelief, before he speaks.

Every day since his arrest, he has thought about talking with Praveen and all of the questions he wanted to ask him. Everything that had happened that week still didn’t make any sense to Christensen, who couldn’t, no matter how hard he tried, square the man he had thought Praveen was with the man the police say he is.
The Rev. John Praveen is charged with two counts of sexual contact
with a 13-year-old. (Diocese of Rapid City)
                                                 

 He first heard of Praveen shortly before he moved to South Dakota last November from Hyderabad, India, to help fill the Rapid City Diocese’s shortage of priests. Praveen arrived at the cathedral in June, carrying himself with a childlike earnestness that almost everyone found disarming. He wanted to put every parishioner’s birthday in the church bulletin. He asked if he could redecorate the church’s understated altar with bright purples and blues. He followed church staff members around, repeatedly asking if they needed help with anything. “Always had a smile on his face,” said Margaret Jackson, a parishioner who took him out to an Indian restaurant days before his arrest.

On a Sunday afternoon three months after Praveen arrived, a local family reported to police allegations against him — details of which are under court seal — and the next day, investigators were at the cathedral. They said they wanted to talk to Praveen, not at the cathedral, but back at the station. Christensen followed them, then waited outside the interrogation room for more than an hour, counting tiles, praying, until the door opened. Praveen came out. His eyes were red. His hair, normally combed, was a ruffled mess. Disbelief was on his face. A detective took Christensen aside and told him. Praveen had been accused of sexually abusing a child. Christensen felt numb, then drove back to the cathedral in near silence with Praveen, who immediately went to his room, where he sat awake with the lights on all night.

The next day, after the police had again come to the cathedral, after Christensen had asked Praveen to change so he wouldn’t be seen cuffed in his clerical clothes, after police had photographed a classroom in the cathedral’s basement, Christensen got online. He wanted to inform the cathedral’s few Facebook followers of all the information he had, but many already had found out from the police on social media everything they needed to know.

“Is it just me, or is the vast majority of these cases that we continue to hear about, involve Catholic priests?!” one person wrote in response to the police department’s Facebook post.

“NEVER go to a Catholic Church,” another person said.

That type of reaction, the absolutism of it, was perhaps most upsetting of all to Christensen. He knew there were abusive priests, but the messy reality was that most weren’t. In fact, he’d come to see clergy members as no more likely to be sexual predators than people in other professions with access to children. Some studies, including a report in 2004 by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, put the number of sexual abusers among priests at about 4 percent, roughly consistent with clergymen of other faiths. Other organizations, including BishopAccountability.org, placed it at just under 6 percent. Anne Barrett Doyle, the organization’s co-director, says it may be shown to be higher still — especially if authorities compel transparency.

And what to do about the priests who abuse? How to balance the secular need for punishment with the Catholic command to forgive? Could anger and compassion coexist?

Now staring at Praveen, who is wiping his eyes and sniffling, speaking so mutedly that he’s barely intelligible, Christensen can’t help but feel sympathy, perhaps not as much as he has for the victim and her family, but sympathy nonetheless.

He leans forward, presses the phone tightly to his ear.

“Father John, how are you?” he says softly.He decides not to ask the questions most on his mind. “Did you know that you can get e-mails?”

He decides not to ask about either of the dates listed on Praveen’s charging document, Sept. 3 and Sept. 28, both of which were days the two priests had spent together. The first had been Labor Day, when they’d gone to a barbecue at the home of a local Catholic. Christensen didn’t see the girl there, but he did see Praveen play cornhole for hours and hours. And the second date had been the day of a ceremony at the cathedral, attended by hundreds, to honor an Italian saint, and Christensen had urged Praveen, during lunch, to try some American food for once.

“What do you need?”

He will not ask how, if the allegations are true, Praveen could have possibly toggled, on both of those days, in two separate locations, between his festivities with congregants and his abuse of the same child, and without anyone noticing. (The girl’s parents have not returned multiple requests for comment.)

“You have the Bible there? You have the rosary?”

And he will not ask what he most wanted to, a question that he repeated with parishioners during a moment of exasperation and frustration days earlier: How could Praveen have done this to them, to the Church?

Instead, he will say this:

“Many, many people are praying for you.”

“We’re trying to help. We’re trying to help.”

“Let’s say a prayer.”

Christensen lowers his head and closes his eyes. Praveen does the same.“We ask for a particular blessing upon Father John,” Christensen says. “God bless you, with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

Christensen hangs up the phone, the light turns off, and Praveen’s face disappears.




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